The artist Constantin Korovin now lives in Paris. How many thoughts pertaining to Russian national painting are linked with this name! It is remembered by many as the name of a magnificent designer, the executer of most diverse theatrical productions. But this is only a part of the essence of Korovin's art. Most important was his original gift of imbuing his art with national feeling. He is verily a Russian artist, a Muscovite, not one having a "Moscow quality" but one encompassing the span of all Russia. Observing the rich range of his paintings, we see in them that true Russian value which delights us all in the works of Surikov, Ryabushkin, Nesterov, and Appolinary Vasnetzov.
And a chronicler of the history of Russian culture will never discard the names of these great artists. It is of no importance that they varied in temperament. But it is important that they thought about and glorified the concepts of great Russia, each in his own way. It is an invaluable fact that they have created in the history of Russian painting a beautiful necklace, which will be remembered by every foreigner who wishes to learn about true Russia.
There are many Russian artists. Many of the best of them were drawn to Paris. Malyavin, Alexander Benois, Yakovlev, Somov, and Grigoriev who came there from time to time — a whole family, covering one of the best pages in the history of Russian art. Now, a very meaningful date is approaching — the 35th anniversary of the International Exposition in Paris, which was of such significance for Russian art.
Everyone remembers a wonderful mural by Korovin at this exhibition and the exultation evoked by the creative power of Malyavin. Thirty years later many a seed sprouted that had been sown by this group of Russian artists.
There have always been many Russians in Pans, and they passed through both good and bad times. At times they had easy periods, but then again there would be nothing but crisis after crisis. Through all these fluctuations, through the storm of diversified opinions, many times did the statesmen of France definitely mention Russian art as one of the indisputable magnets which forged the former Franco-Russian understanding. Diaghilev — his ballet, his opera! And Chaliapin! Not just theatrical undertakings, these were the most wonderful envoys. Russian messengers, who forever strengthened a deep, welcoming respect for unforgettable Russia.
And now, will foreigners ever think of Russian music without recalling the names of Moussorgsky, Rimski-Korsakov, and without our renowned Stravinsky and Prokofiev who are living now in Paris?
And all those writers, philosophers, scientists! They rose like luminous milestones, leading out of the past into the enlightened future! In Europe who does not know at present the names of Merezhkovski, Remisov, Bunin, Aldanov, Grebenstshikoff? They are known, translated and valued. One is aware not only of the great names of the past - Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoevski, Gogol, Turgenev — but also of the presently living and creating renowned Russian writers. Who does not know Berdyaev or Lossky? Could international conventions take place without Taube or Nolde?
Each time, upon entering the path of enumeration of Russian names, one feels all the weight of the impossibility of mentioning the many who have made a valuable contribution to Russian culture.
I mention these names not only for the sake of enumeration, but to point again to the unusual envoys of Russian culture, through whom, even amidst upheavals, world appreciation and understanding of Russia became strongly affirmed.
Russian artists as banner-bearers in all domains of creation are recognized and accepted in foreign opinion.
It was sad to read recently that life again has become hard for the Russians in France. We believe that this is only a passing wave. There are so many unforgettable testimonies to the fact that everything Russian always has been understood precisely in France.
All the proclamations of rapture before Russian art were not casual. And what could enter the consciousness more strongly and firmly than the understanding of creativeness! If the importance of certain creativity has been evaluated, this does not mean a passing infatuation; recorded appreciations of culture do not glide along dubiously, they become strong cornerstones. Similarly, international ties of friendship are forged through creativeness. Since long ago Russians have heartily evaluated and revered the treasures of great French culture. In Russia the French language could almost have been called the state language. French writers were translated into Russian, and were read and repeatedly quoted. In Russia, French painting and sculpture were collected and preserved with solicitude. Until recently, French works in painting and the theater have especially attracted the Russian heart. And since thirty-five years ago, at which time France became more intimately acquainted with Russian art, many heartfelt tokens of mutual understanding have been manifested.
I recall with what hearty feeling French exhibitions were organized in Petersburg. And I will also not forget the brilliant evaluations of Russian art events in Paris by the French critics. All this is unforgettable and unalterable.
No matter what different paths the travelers take, if they start out under one blessing they will meet joyously at the crossroads.
It was sad to read about the difficult life of the Russians in France. In the final analysis it is difficult now for all, and everywhere. Humanity, entering a great crisis, has become crowded and is jostling on the crossroads, but the crossroads is not the road. And the wayfarers who follow one path cannot remain in ignorance.
I know that between great France and great Russia bonds of unity have been woven through great creativeness. And, as bearers of banners of light of both nations, the artists in all fields of creativeness will proclaim the guarantee of hearty understanding, invincible values, and the path to the future.
Great faith is laid into creativeness. Since ancient times the paths of art have been sanctified. On these paths mutual understanding and friendship remain steadfast.
February 18, 1935